Buy now! - Learn more about Abaarso's extraordinary story in Abaarso Founder, Jonathan Starr's, new book "It Takes A School"

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Our Team

Abaarso’s success would not be possible without the support of a diverse and talented group of faculty and board members, both in Somaliland and the U.S., who are all incredibly dedicated to the success of the school and the future opportunities of its students.

Executive Staff
Somaliland Board of Directors

Mr. Ahmed Jambir Suldan, Board Chair
Former Interior Minister, Somaliland Ministry of the Interior

Mr. Saeed Ahmed Mohamoud, Board Vice Chair
Independent Consultant

Mr. James Linville, Board Secretary
Headmaster, Abaarso School of Science and Technology

Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Awale
Chairman, Candlelight for Environment, Education, and Health

Mr. Abdi Hassan Duale
Executive Officer, National Professions Commission

Mr. Abdulkader Hashi Elmi
CEO, Maansoor Hotel

Mr. Omer Jama Farah
Manager, Taakulo Somaliland Community

Ms. Amal Ahmed Misan
Presidential Advisor on Women’s Affairs, Somaliland Presidential Office

Sh Mohamed Mohamoud, Religious Scholar

Dr. Jinaw Mohamed Qaalib
Medical Doctor and Lecturer, Global Polyclinic, University of Hargeisa, and Frantz Fanon University

U.S. Advisory Board Members

Jonathan Starr
Founder and Headmaster Emeritus

Anand Desai
Board Chair

Mohammed Ali
Senior Vice President, Hartford Investment Management Company

Gaurav Bhandari
Managing Partner, Long Arc Capital

Andra Ehrenkranz
Independent Education/Marketing Professional

John Ehrenkranz
Chief Investment Officer, Ehrenkranz Partners LP

Mitch Golden
Portfolio Manager, Greenlight Masters

Mohammed Gouled
VP Risk & Financial Sustainability, IFC

Mustafa A. Jama
Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Management

Steve Kuhn
Co-founder, ASK Charitable Foundation

Adeel Qalbani
Managing Partner, Perry Creek Capital

Michael Pollack
Clinical Assistant Professor of Business & Society, NYU Stern School of Business

Bradley Francis
Portfolio Manager, Pharo Management LLC

Abaarso Staff
Jonathan Starr
Founder | Headmaster Emeritus

Since 2008, Jonathan has been Managing Director, Headmaster, and Founder of Abaarso School. From 2004 – 2008, Jonathan founded and led Flagg Street Capital, a private investment firm that managed $170 million of assets. Prior to Flagg Street, he worked as an Analyst at SAB Capital and at Blavin and Company. Jonathan’s career started as a Research Associate within the Taxable Bond Division at Fidelity Investments. In addition to his full-time responsibilities, Jonathan sat on the Board of Directors of Pomeroy IT Solutions, a publicly traded IT company generating $500 million of annual sales. Jonathan’s board responsibilities included acting as a member of the Audit Committee, the Advisory Committee, and the Special Committee (strategic alternatives) of Pomeroy. Jonathan graduated from Emory University, with a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Economics and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

It Takes a School: The Extraordinary Story of an American School in the World’s #1 Failed State
by Jonathan Starr

A story of David and Goliath proportions, how an American hedge fund manager created a unique school in Somaliland whose students, against all odds, have come to achieve success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.


Ava Ramberg
Strategic Development

A native of Minnesota, Ava graduated with high distinction from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School with a degree in Public/Non-Profit Management and Entrepreneurial Management. Ava’s interest in international development began at Children’s Home Society and Family Services. Before Abaarso, she served as a youth and maternal health education advocate in Kenya. She also traveled extensively in East Africa and speaks English, French, and Swahili. At Abaarso, Ava taught math for three years and developed a passion for improving students’ fundamentals and ability to think critically. Ava also served as the Assistant Headmaster and the Director of Development, initiating Abaarso’s Kiva program. Now in New York, Ava is committed to ensuring that Abaarso will continue to create thoughtful, tenacious, and principled leaders of Somaliland.

James Linville
Headmaster | Faculty of Mathematics

James was born and raised in New York, NY. He graduated with high honors from the University of Virginia, studying politics, philosophy and history. He was briefly a PhD student at Princeton University before leaving in 2014 to join Abaarso In his time at Abaarso he has served as Head of the Lower School, Assistant Headmaster and, since December 2015, as Headmaster.  In addition to running Abaarso, he is a Trustee of Coker College, and manages a fund dedicated to expanding educational opportunity within disadvantaged communities.

Katie Chlumska
Assistant Headmaster | Faculty of English

Katie was born in the Czech Republic, but grew up and studied in Great Britain. After graduating with a BA International Relations (with German) from the University of Exeter, she pursued further education, completing a Masters degree in Global and Comparative Politics at Queen Mary, University of London. Throughout her studies, Katie developed a passion for the non-profit sector, particularly working with children, in education development and modern English language curriculum development. She’s volunteered for organisations such as UNICEF, Our Sansar and Amnesty International, and led an English Language Conversation Club for refugees in London. Since leaving London in 2013, Katie has worked and travelled around the world, including Europe, Palestine, Nepal and China. In her spare time, Katie coordinates social media for a British-Nepalese NGO Our Sansar and loves playing sports, running, dancing and snowboarding. She is now looking forward to exploring Africa and working with the wonderful students at Abaarso, Somaliland.

Marlee Burns
Head of the Upper School | Faculty of Mathematics

Marlee graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas at Austin, triple majoring in International Relations, Middle Eastern Studies, and Plan II Honors. While there, she founded a mentoring program with a local middle school, and spent two summers studying in Turkey. In Spring 2015, she was selected as a White House Intern where she worked with the White House Fellowship Program, developing the leadership skills of young people. After graduation, Marlee moved to a small town in rural Azerbaijan as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, where she loved being immersed in the community and culture. She is an avid stress baker, and enjoys camping and traveling. Marlee loves working with youth and is extremely excited to work with the Abaarso students.

James Greisler
Head of the Lower School | Faculty of English & Creative Arts

Originally from a small town in Upstate New York, James graduated from Hamilton College in 2010 with a BA in Theatre. Wishing to see the world, James spent the following years teaching English in South Korea and in the Republic of Georgia. From 2013-2014 James spent two years teaching English in Malaysia under the Fulbright Program. There he led drama activities, including adaptations of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Dr. Seuss stories, as well as over 20 day-long English camps and a student art exhibition. James also did outreach work with his Orang Asli (native) students and their community, resulting in a meeting between the students and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. An avid reader, James enjoys hiking, folk dances, and playing his trumpet and sapeh.

Jennifer "Jennie" Bromberg
COO | Faculty of Science

Jennifer was born and raised in Bexley, Ohio. She graduated with honors from Brandeis University in 2015 with degrees in Health: Science, Society, and Policy and International and Global Studies. At Brandeis, Jennifer was selected as a Ruderman Social Justice in Disability scholar and worked as a research assistant at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

Ryan Pakebusch
College Counselor | Faculty of English & History

Ryan graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Austin, receiving a dual-degree in Government and Communication Studies. While there, he was president of a chapter of an international development non-profit, lobbied for university issues to the Texas legislature, the White House, and Congress, mentored and tutored at a East Austin high school, and studied in the United Kingdom with the War Studies Department at King’s College London. He has also taught financial workshops and consulted community banks in Ghana and Honduras. In Spring 2017, he completed a fellowship with the Governor of Texas, working on homeland security issues. Ryan is excited to join Abaarso and dive into teaching and bringing energy to all aspects of his involvement with the school.

Mustafe Elmi
Dean of Boys | Faculty of Mathematics, History, & Social Sciences

Mustafe is a graduate of Abaarso School. In the fall of 2013, he moved to the US to attend Westminster College in Missouri. Mustafe is passionate about economic development and institution building. As such, he double majored in Political Economics and Transnational Studies. In the spring of 2016, he studied abroad at Jacobs University in Germany where he conducted research on German economic development and what other developing countries can learn from it. He was a member of the Westminster Honors Program and the Co-founder and President of an awarding-wining club called Global Development and Progress (GDP). Mustafe enjoys conducting research, traveling, and cycling. 

Abdiwahab Sh. Husein Ali
Faculty of Islamic Studies

Sheekhu wuxuu dhashay sanadii 1977. Waxbarashadiisa waxa uu ka bilaabay magaalada Baydhaba. Waxa uu xooga saaray barashada aqoonta diinta Alle. Soyaalkiisii dheeraa ee waxbarashadiisa diintu waxay ahayd mid aan kala go’ lahayn. Laga soo bilaabo 10 jirkiisii ilaa maanta oo uu 40 jir yahay. Ma aha oo kaliya waxbarasho uu baranaayey, balse waxa uu leeyahay khibrad dhanka wax-dhigista diinta iyo ku barbaarinta caruurta tarbiyada wanagsan oo uu ku soo dhex jirey mudo ku dhow 25 sano. Macalinku waxa uu wax ka soo dhigay magalooyinka Baydhabo, Muqdisho, iyo Hargeisa. Waxa intaas dheer isaga oo Culuumta Shareecada ka diyaariyey Jamacada Golis ee Hargeisa.

Stephen Finney
Faculty of English

Originally from Kentucky, Stephen received a BA in Studio Art (focusing in glass blowing and ceramics) from Centre College in 2008. From 2009-2011, he served as Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon and worked as an agroforestry extension agent. His primary projects were aimed at sustainable agriculture practices, reforestation techniques, and the implementation of “appropriate technologies.” Additionally, he taught primary school English at the local school and finance courses to adults in the community. After the Peace Corps, Stephen attended Parsons the New School for Design in New York City and received a Double MFA in architectural lighting design and interior architectural design. Most recently, he has been merging the technical with the aesthetic while teaching graduate courses in architectural representation/spatial analysis at Parsons The New School for Design and working as an architectural lighting designer on electric/daylight design for museums and cultural institutions.

Chazaq Llinas
Faculty of Mathematics

From Ocean City, Maryland, Chazaq Llinas graduated from St. John’s College after having studied under a Great Books program which spans the western canon of mathematics, science, literature and philosophy. He received a BA in Liberal Arts after having completed his senior essay on Plato’s Theaetetus. Following graduation, Chazaq spent two years in Benin as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He was a secondary school English teacher in the rural village of Dassari. In addition to teaching, he created a Girls’ Football Club, coordinated internship programs for motivated students, and participated in a variety of national summer camps and educational trainings. He has spent the last year as a English Language Assistant in Argenteuil, France, a suburb outside of Paris at a ZEP (Zone d’éducation prioritaire) designated school. He enjoys cooking, chess, film, and hiking.

Mawlid Ainan
Faculty of Computer Science

Mawlid Ainan graduated from Sikkim Manipal University with a BsIT in 2014 and then worked as an intern at Ernst and Young, one of the big four auditing and accounting firms in world, in Kampala Uganda. After he completed his studies in abroad, he came back home and started working at Amoud University as an IT lecturer and worked for SSG, a top IT firm in Somaliland, as an IT consultant.

Clayton Zendman Cohn
Faculty of Mathematics

A native of suburban New York, Clayton Z. Cohn comes to Abaarso School from Alexandria, Egypt, where he recently completed his fifth year teaching high school mathematics at a private American-curriculum school. Clayton has prior experience working as an emergency department nurse in a major urban U.S. hospital. In addition to a Bachelor of Science in nursing, Clayton’s academic credentials include a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and a Master of Science in education. Clayton is excited to have the opportunity to work with students and faculty dedicated to the development of promising Somali youth and committed to the values of integrity, tenacity, and reasoning.

Jin Sasaki
Faculty of Science

Jin has lived in East Africa for the majority of his life, living in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya. Jin graduated from Cornell University with a BS in International Agriculture and Rural Development. As a student he was involved in rugby and volunteered in the orientation program. He is an avid traveller and coffee enthusiast.

Sean White
Faculty of English & History

Sean was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He graduated from Carleton University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. After graduation, he worked in China for one year as an English Instructor. Upon his return to Canada, he started working in Vancouver as a Head Humanities Facilitator and Curriculum Development Team Member for a company that works closely with school districts all across Canada and overseas. While working in Vancouver, Sean studied Canadian Immigration (Laws, Policies and Procedures) at the University of British Columbia. An avid nature lover, he spent many summers working in reforestation and has planted over 300,000 trees in remote areas all across his home country to help finance his education. Sean’s passions are focused around international education, culture, and travel.

Arkadiusz “Arek” Wilczynski
Faculty of Computer Science

Arkadiusz graduated from Poznan University of Technology in 2013 with a Master of Science in Computer Science. During his studies he spent a semester at Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal and completed the IAESTE internship in Istanbul, Turkey. Shortly after graduation he fulfilled his dream of traveling between Beijing, China and Bali, Indonesia without taking a plane. The following year he returned to China to work as a middle school teacher. When not traveling, Arek works as a freelance programmer developing web applications.

Najib Abdihamid Ahmed
Faculty of English, History, & Social Studies

Najib is an Abaarso alumnus and a member of the first graduating class of Abaarso School. He recently graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar with a BSFS in International Politics. While at Georgetown, Najib had the opportunity to work extensively with the Admissions Department, which deepened his interests in educational policy and management. During his free time, Najib enjoys reading, playing basketball, and travelling. He looks forward to going back to Abaarso.

Lindsay Taaffe
Faculty of English

Lindsay was born and raised in Canada and has been a marketing and strategy executive for over ten years. Her studies include Psychology and English at the University of Toronto, Digital Media at OCAD University, and various MOOCs. As a proponent of growth through education, Lindsay is excited to join the Abaarso team in its commitment to student and community success. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys traveling, reading or learning just about anything, doing yoga, and spending time outdoors.

Suad Yusuf
Faculty of History & Social Studies

Suad is of Somali origin, but was born in Khartoum, Sudan. As an adult third culture kid; Suad has lived in various cities in the United States, South East Asia, and East Africa, but is proud to call Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania home. She graduated with a M.A in International Development and Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in gender and development and grassroots development. Her capstone thesis focused on financial literacy programs for women-led enterprise in Northern Kenya. In her free time, she enjoys reading, journaling, and watching foreign films. She is excited to join the Abaarso community, and to have the opportunity to teach and learn from her students.

Kenny Saleh
Faculty of Mathematics

Born and raised in Southern California, Kenny has lived in the Los Angeles suburbs for a majority of his life. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Cognitive Science from UCLA, and was a part of multiple research labs in his undergrad career. While also a writer for a student-run magazine and newspaper at UCLA, he also worked full-time during his summers for a camp that benefited underprivileged youth across Southern California. This experience is what excited and motivated Kenny to come to Abaarso and have the opportunity to work with the students.

Cassandra Murtagh
Faculty of English & Science

Cassandra was born and raised in a small town in the west of Ireland. She studied concurrent degrees in History and Political Science BA (Hons) in Trinity College Dublin, and Law LLB in Independent Colleges Dublin; graduating from both in 2014. Cassandra then went on to work at the National Archives Foundation, in Washington D.C. promoting education and awareness of American history. After a year in the States, Cassandra returned to Ireland and completed a law masters in Peace Operations, Humanitarian Law and Conflict at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. Cassandra is passionate about political engagement and gender equality in politics, and is active in local and national politics.

Christina Bowden
Faculty of History

Christina is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Georgia, and would later earn her M.Ed. in International Education Policy and Management from Vanderbilt University. Between her degrees Christina worked in refugee resettlement, with a focus in education for newly arrived families. She has had the opportunity to work abroad at an education organization in Colombia, and is excited to now pursue her goals here in Somaliland. Christina has a passion for using education as a tool for international development, exploring new cultures, and learning from her students.

Jack Barr
Faculty of English & Science

Jack grew up in a small town in regional Australia. He holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/Bachelor of International Studies (with Distinction) double degree from Deakin University. While at university, Jack was fortunate enough to be supported by an equity scholarship from the Dafydd Lewis Trust. Touched by the generosity and foresight of others that enabled him to pursue a tertiary education, Jack decided to give back to the global academic community through joining the Abaarso team.